By Dennis Tedder
31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband,[a] says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. -Jeremiah 31:31-34
As we cope in a rapidly changing world, communicating with others is a crucial skill. This ability remains important while our methods of communication have changed so much in the past few generations… and are changing still.
When I entered school as a child, one early, foundational subject was handwriting. All of us were instructed in holding a pencil & shaping letters… then forming words… then stringing words together in sentences… writing to express thoughts & ideas… Younger folks, now taught keyboarding skills, find it curious & quaint that earlier generations received a grade in handwriting.
Handwriting is still a basic skill for most & we begin learning the same way – tracing letters. We copy a pattern to guide our hands in forming letters & words. Some of us as children excel at clear, clean, legible handwriting, while others struggle with handwriting. Then, my generation had to learn writing in cursive!
I remember the shock upon hearing that our sons were not learning to write or read in cursive. I will admit, they and their generation seem to manage this age of keyboards and voice command technology fairly well.
The text from Jeremiah extols an imperative ability for coping & communicating with a broken & sinful world. This gift, so vital in living well, is not handwriting but heartwriting. Heartwriting is how we reflect in our thoughts & actions the Way of living our creator God inscribes in our hearts. God calls us to make our mark with our words & deeds, as we learn & relearn, guided by & patterned on the truth God prints in our hearts.
“God keeps creating things from the inside out, so they are forever yearning, developing, growing and changing for the good.” Richard Rohr, Daily Meditation for January 1, 2019
Just as children form their letters by copying the letter guide over & over, we form our faith & lives by continually following the guide God plants deep within us.
It’s been said that the Bible is largely a record of humans breaking their promises & God keeping God’s promises. That’s where God’s anointed prophets come in — along with divine promises, we hear human prophets, who confront a people who keep breaking their promises. Jeremiah is such a prophet, speaking to Israel long ago and to us today in times of stress and uncertainty.
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God promises fatigued people: The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with [my people]… this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (31:33) From God’s Way imprinted on our hearts, we will make our mark, with heartwriting that shows the world God’s Way.
Howard Thurman wrote: [We] cannot continue long to live if the dream in the heart has perished. It is then that [we] stop hoping, stop looking, &… anticipations fade away. The dream in the heart is the outlet. It is one with the living water welling up from the very springs of Being, nourishing and sustaining all of life. Where there is no dream, the life becomes a swamp, a dreary dead place, and, deep within, a [person’s] heart begins to rot… The dream is the quiet persistence in the heart that enables [us] to ride out the storms of … churning experiences… The dream is no outward thing. It does not take its rise from the environment in which one moves or functions. It lives in the inward parts, it is deep within, where the issues of life and death are ultimately determined. Keep alive the dream; for as long as [we have] a dream in [our] heart, [we] cannot lose the significance of living. Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart, 36-37.
The prophets know this dream in the heart as TORAH, God’s law (the way, the guidance).
Proverbs instructs: Let not steadfast love & faithfulness forsake you… write them on the tablet of your heart. 3:3 keep my commandments and live, keep my teachings as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers, write them on the tablet of your heart. 7:3
We take God’s writing within and we put in ‘out there.’ Can the world read our heartwriting?
A man writing at the post office desk was approached by an older fellow with a postcard in his hand. With shaking hand, the elderly man said, “Sir, could you please address this postcard for me?”
The other man gladly did so, agreeing also to write a short message & sign the card for the man. Finally, the younger man asked, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”
The old fellow thought about it for a moment & said, “Yes, at the end could you just put, ‘P.S. Please excuse the sloppy handwriting.'”
John Yates, Leadership XIV Handwriting can be illegible, unreadable.
Is our heartwriting clear in our daily words & deeds?
Our heartwriting is not cursive or some fancy font but daily Covenant living with God & one another. Church family, we help each other, each generation, form faith by reaching deep within, holding up the pattern we can copy together.
“I think that there are a lot of broken hearts these days, broken on the left and on the right over the conditions of modern life. I think “the politics of rage” is really about heartbreak.” Parker J. Palmer, Autumn/Winter 2010. collegevilleinstitute.org.
Beloved people of God, disciples of Jesus Christ, called & claimed by grace, God wants us to make our mark on this heartbroken world. We are not talking about penmanship but discipleship. Do we form our lives guided by the Way, the guide God gives in Jesus Christ?
As Jeremiah and others declare, God plants & imprints God’s Covenant Way – a divine dream for how life can be — on our hearts. Jesus promises that “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” We profess: JESUS CHRIST MEDIATES GOD’S NEW COVENANT & BRINGS a life-building MESSAGE STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART OF A HOLY GOD TO EVERY HUMAN HEART. Shaped by the Way God inscribes in our hearts, our heartwriting can bless the world.
May our heartwriting be clear and readable each day, sisters & brothers in Christ.
Rev. Dennis Tedder
First Presbyterian, Anderson
November 22, 2020